Friday, February 19, 2010

Who's at fault?

I'm writing this with a little trepidation because I'm not a police officer, I wasn't at the scene, and I'm getting all of my information from my newspaper. I trust this source, but I also know that we didn't get all of the information initially. So, my caveat is that I know pretty much nothing and am just assuming about what happened here. Yes, I know what happens when you assume.
This was in the Daily Herald today detailing a a car accident on I-15 in which one person died. My reading of it is a car seemed to change lanes into another car, which then went off the road and hit the barrier. The driver's side door came open; both passengers were ejected. One died, one is badly hurt. Neither appeared to be wearing seat belts.
I read this and honestly wondered who was at fault here. Again assuming these facts are correct, I can't decide. The first driver I would say caused the accident by improperly changing lanes. The other car never would have been involved in the crash had the first car not caused the crash.
But, is it possible that the two people in the second car would have walked away, or at least been hurt much less severely, had they been wearing seat belts and thus not ejected onto the freeway? That seems likely. Should the first driver be held accountable for the fatality because his error compounded the error another person made?
It's actually a pretty tough call. Not wearing a seat belt probably wouldn't have made a difference had they not been in a car accident caused by somebody else. The accident probably would not have been even close to fatal had the people been wearing seat belts. Can the first driver theoretically be charged with vehicular homicide or negligent manslaughter or something if police find that he is at fault for the accident? A man has been charged with murder for scaring an old woman to death; police believe she died of a heart attack caused by him breaking into her house to hide from the police, even though he told her he wasn't going to hurt her.
But, since the woman who died made the choice to not obey the seat belt law, she must be held accountable for that decision. Sadly for all involved, she paid a high price for that, and probably paid some of it unfairly.
Still. Who gets the blame on this one? It kind of sucks for everyone.

1 comment:

  1. I've always wondered about this. This, I think, should be the biggest argument for making seatbelt-wearing mandatory. The first person should definitely be charged - but with vehicular manslaughter (which will almost definitely be the charge)? I don't know. Run for Congress. Fix everything.